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Posts Tagged ‘Rebecca Hunter’

A *Beautifully* Original Magnolia in South Bend - For Sale!

June 12th, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

For many years, I’ve wondered what it would be like to see a Magnolia in original condition.

Now, I know.

The Sears Magnolia in South Bend was recently listed for sale, and the Realtor kindly sent me a few pictures.

It can be described in one word:  STUNNING.

Or maybe two:  Original!

These photos give us a rare opportunity to step back in time almost 100 years, and see what the Sears Magnolia looked like when built.

If I was queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d insist that the potential buyers of this rare, historically significant home be required to do a proper, thoughtful and historically sensitive restoration (which is radically different from a remodeling). I’d demand that they find a way to preserve the home’s original features.

As my buddy Bill Inge says, “The first commandment of preservation is, ‘Thou shalt not destroy good old work.’”

The 3,895-square foot home is listed at $320,000. Situated on 1/3 of an acre, it has four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and two half-baths. The listing says it was built in 1927, but we know that that’s not right. The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922.

This house is a rare treasure. I hope its next owners “catch” the vision and see what a remarkable property it really is.

Ready to see some photos? You should get ready to be dazzled!

To buy this fine old house, click here.

To learn more about the history of the Sears Magnolia kit home, click here.

Interested in reading more about how these homes were built? Click here.

All photos are copyright Steve Matz, 2014.

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The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

The Sears Magnolia is now for sale in South Bend, IN.

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The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 in the Sears Modern Homes catalog.

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The Magnolia in South Bend is remarkable because it's in original condition.

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A view from the inside.

A view from the inside.

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This Magnolia still retains its original mouldings and trim but the inglenook and columns are not in place. It's possible that the house was built without these built-ins.

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I suspect that this is the fireplace in the den.

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The den (right rear) was very small (only 8'9" deep). It's unusual to see the den in its original shape and size. It's also unusual to see a house from this vintage with a half-bath on the first floor (next to the den).

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The Realtor had the good sense to photograph the staircase from the same angle as the original catalog image!

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Nice match, isn't it? Check out the French doors at the rear - both upper and lower level.

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Nice, huh? :D

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The best

There's something about these old nooks that just makes my heart skip a beat.

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This is the very best picture of all. And perhaps the home's finest feature: A built-in nook, completely untouched by time, with the original tile floor, white hexagonal tiles with a blue flower center. This pattern is a classic feature found in early 20th Century Sears Homes. You can see the three original wooden windows behind the nook.

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Fun comparison, isn't it? It's so rare to see these nooks still in place.

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Another incredible feature is that

Not only does this house have its original Butler's Pantry, but it has the original sink, wooden surround and fixture. This house is such a rare find, and to think that it's a Sears Magnolia!

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And it just gets better. Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, the dressing room, is the original sink, light fixtures and oak cabinetry - unpainted!

Upstairs, just off the Master Bedroom, is a surprisingly large dressing room. The fact that even the dressing room is original is a real testament to the home's prior owners, who had the wisdom to follow the #1 rule: "Thou shalt not destroy good old work." And this cabinetry was incredibly good work. In the corner, is the Magnolia's original sink, light fixtures and medicine chest - unpainted! If you look closely, you'll see the original cabinet pulls.

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It's true that I am nutty as a fruitcake, but seeing this century-old Magnolia - wholly untouched by time - sends me. Original sink, original fixtures, original medicine chest, and an original light fixture (porcelain sconce). Just incredible. I'm a big fan of old plumbing but I've never seen a three-sided sink before.

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Close-up of the upstairs floorplan, showing that small sink in the dressing room.

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And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

And the sunporch has its original wooden casement windows.

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A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

A view from the upstairs 2nd floor balcony.

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To buy this fine old house, click here.

Interested in learning more about the Sears Magnolia? Click here.

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The True Origins of the Sears Magnolia

February 10th, 2014 Sears Homes 5 comments

The Sears Magnolia, offered from 1918-1922, seems to be a source of a much misinformation and confusion.

Yesterday, someone sent me a link to another purported “Magnolia” in Watseka, IL (719 South Fourth Street). And then a member in our “Sears Homes” Facebook group showcased a quote from author Daniel Reiff (Houses from Books) stating that even though the house in Watseka is not a Sears Magnolia, it may have been an inspiration for the Sears architects.

Built models might have also been an influence [for the Sears Magnolia]. Only one hundred miles from Chicago, in Watseka, IL is an impressive Colonial Revival built in 1903 with many features in common with the Magnolia (Houses from Books, p. 194).

I’d say there are a few other houses that have “many features in common with the Magnolia” - as in thousands.

The Magnolia would be best described as a Colonial Revival, which was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Sears was not an innovator in anything, most of all, architectural design. They looked at what was popular and created their housing designs accordingly.

Judging from the photos in Houses from Books, much of Reiff’s research was centered in the Northeast, specifically the New York area. Mr. Reiff should have traveled down to the South, because we’re loaded with examples of what is commonly known as the Colonial Revival.

If I felt compelled to connect a specific house to the architect’s creation of the Sears Magnolia, I’d put my money on a 1910-built house in Blacksburg, SC (photos below).

The South Carolina “Magnolia” was built in 1910, and based on the home’s interior moldings, mantels, staircase and some other clues, I’d say that the 1910 build-date is pretty accurate. And although this is a wild guess, I suspect that it MAY BE a pattern book house.

This “SCFM” (”South Carolina Faux Maggy”) is four feet wider and four feet longer than the Sears Magnolia.

When Sears “borrowed” patterns from other sources, they’d change the dimensions a bit, and in the case of the SCFM, it was a bit too big for Sears purposes, so shrinking the footprint made sense.

One more interesting detail: The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets across the front of the Magnolia. The SCFM has eight brackets. The Magnolia’s dormer has four of these eave brackets. The SCFM has three. These are the kind of details that matter.

Mr. Reiff also identified a Sears Magnolia in Dunkirk, NY.


A second example of a brick Magnolia can be found in Dunkirk NY, Despite the lack of side wings because of the narrow lot, the similarities to the Sears model are still striking, but the house is much narrower than its model. In fact, although the 93 West Fourth Street is the same depth as the Magnolia (36′1 vs. 36), it is a full ten feet narrower (29.10 vs. 40.0)
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All of which are deal killers. Dimensions matter - a lot. However, Mr. Reiff pulls it out of the fire at the end with this:

The plan of the Dunkirk house is considerably different. Instead of the formal central hallway with staircase and rooms on either side, here the plan is far more compact; One enters the living room which runs across the front of the house in the middle of its long side; the stairs are at one end…Here we almost certainly have an instance of a local builder who studied the illustration in the Sears catalog and created his own version of it, without ordering the plans or, in all likelihood, any of the materials from Sears (p. 196).


Besides, if you were going to name a house “The Magnolia,” would your inspiration come from the frozen North?

I think not.

Now, where is that 9th Magnolia?

To see pictures of all eight Sears Magnolias, click here.

To read more about the “fake” Magnolia in SC, click here.

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If I was going to pick a house to have been a model for the Magnolia, Id pick this house in Blacksburg, SC!!

If I were going to pick a house to have been a "model" for the Magnolia, I'd pick this house in Blacksburg, South Carolina After all, this actually looks like a Magnolia!

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The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

The Magnolia was offered from 1918-1922 and is shown here on the cover of the 1918 Modern Homes catalog. Some may describe it as a Colonial Revival, but really, it's a foursquare with delusions of grandeur.

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The Magnolia (1920 Modern Homes catalog).

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This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a model for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to cut it down to size for a kit house catalog.

This house in Blacksburg, SC was built in 1910. You want to talk about a "model" for the Magnolia? This would be it. The house was wider and deeper than the Magnolia, but it would have been easy work to "cut it down to size" for inclusion in a kit house catalog. There are 15 small lites over the large windows on the first floor - just like the Magnolia. And, it's in South Carolina, just where you'd expect to find a "Magnolia"!

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The other big difference are the columns.

The other big difference is the columns. The real Magnolia has hollow wooden columns (made of poplar). The house in Blacksburg had columns made of concrete. Try shipping *that* from Chicago!

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The details around the eaves are also a little bit off.

The details around the eaves are also a little bit "off." The eave brackets on the SC house are more ornate (photo on right). The underside of the front porch (eaves) shows that there are ten brackets on the Sears Magnolia. The Blacksburg house has eight brackets. The Magnolia's dormer has four of these eave brackets. The Blacksburg house has three. These are the kind of details that really do matter. (The house on the left is a Magnolia in Nebraska which has since been torn down. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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But boy oh boy, its a close one!!

But boy oh boy, it's a close one!!

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Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

Has those 15 lites over the window, too!

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Even the interior floorplan was a good match!

However, the interior floorplan was not quite right, and that's a big deal, too.

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Heres the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

Here's the real deal in Northern West Virginia.

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And here are

In June 2012, I traveled to Anderson, SC and found these two Colonial Revivals within a block of each other. In the South, this house style is very popular and can be found in almost every old neighborhood. In fact, these houses might just be real Colonials (as opposed to a post-Civil war "Revival").

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The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, its just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!!  (Not)

The Colonial Revival was a hugely popular housing style in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To learn more about this style, I heartily recommend this book. Why, it's just *FULL* of Sears Magnolias!!! (Not)

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

Better yet, if you’d like to buy a copy or Rose’s book, click here.

To read about the now-deceased Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.

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My Favorite Magnolia Story - As Told By A Builder Who Built A Maggy

February 3rd, 2014 Sears Homes 2 comments

This blog originally appeared at this site November 2011. That was more than two years ago, and I thought it’d be worthwhile to print this again.  Enjoy!

In September 2002, I flew to Akron, Ohio to work with a producer for a new show that was tentatively called, History Detectives. They were very excited about launching the new program with a story on Sears Homes. I would appear on the second episode, in a story centered around some purported Sears Homes in Firestone Park in Akron.

The filming started at a beautiful Sears Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. What a thrill that was, to see my first Sears Magnolia up close and personal!

The filming took place in March and it was very cold in Ohio. Seemed like it was either snowing, getting ready to snow, or just finishing up with snow. I never saw a blue sky during my time in Ohio.

Despite the cold weather, it was a happy, happy event for me - all the way around. Throughout the eight days of filming, I was treated like a queen and I had my own “gaffer,” who fetched me donuts and hot cocoa and gloves and any little thing my heart desired. What fun!

Years after that big event, someone sent me an article about the building of that Magnolia in Canton, Ohio. It was written sometime in the early 1990s by a Canton history buff, T. E. Prather. The title was “Magnolia: Neo Classic Revival Revived!”

What’s remarkable about this article is that it quotes the 94-year-old builder who helped build the Magnolia in 1923. (Unfortunately, it was a short newspaper clipping, and there was no newspaper name attached! I’d love to know where this originally appeared.)

Clarence Swallow was the builder of nearly 300 homes in this area, and in 1923, he was a 27-year-old carpenter. He was hired by Canton Attorney Leroy Contie, Sr., to supervise the total construction of Contie’s Magnolia.

The catalog price of this pre-cut house was $5,140. With the price of the Ridgewood lot, plastering, electrical work, plumbing, plus other extras, te total cost of the home was approximately $18,000.

Swallow explains how the crates of numbered, top-quality, pre-cut lumber and supplies were brought to the building site by horse-drawn wagons. Swallow and his two-man crew sorted through the giant jig-saw puzzle of packages and began construction in the summer of 1923.

The framing went up on the pre-formed concrete foundation through the summer and autumn. By the first snowfall, the Magnolia was under roof. Then Ennon Plumbing, Eclipse Electric, and several plasterers worked through the winter as Swallow and crew completed the interior trim work.

The six fluted yellow poplar Corinthian porch columns were precisely set in place to support the two-story front portico. The side lights [flanking] the front entrance and an elliptical fanlight under a second floor balcony were the center focus of the main entry.

The original elegance of this early 1920s Magnolia has yielded a small bit to being unoccupied over the past couple years. Yet it has been featured in the Smithsonian (November 1985) and was the featured home of Ohio Historical Society’s publication , Timeline in early 1989.


To read my second favorite blog about the Sears Magnolia, click here.

And we found an eighth Magnolia in West Virginia! Read about that here!

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The Magnolia was the finest house that Sears offered (cover 1918).

The Magnolia was the finest house that Sears offered (cover 1918).

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Although I never did see one with a red roof.

Although I never did see one with a red roof.

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It was offered from 1918 - 1922, and sold for about $5,000 (depending on year). In 1920, the price hit $9,990 due to post-war hyperinflation of building materials.

It was offered from 1918 - 1922, and sold for about $5,000 (depending on year). In 1920, the price hit $9,990 due to post-war hyperinflation of building materials.

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One of my favorite Magnolias in Benson, SC.

One of my favorite Magnolias in Benson, SC.

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Another gorgeous Magnolia in West Virginia.

Another gorgeous Magnolia in West Virginia.

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The Magnolia in South Bend (which is currently for sale). Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

The Magnolia in South Bend (which is currently for sale). Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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This Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is looking a little rough, but its recently been sold and maybe itll get a new chance at life.

This Magnolia in Piedmont, Alabama is looking a little rough, but it's recently been sold and maybe it'll get a new chance at life. It does need some lovin'.

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A brick Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania.

A brick Sears Magnolia in Pennsylvania.

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And a STUNNING Magnolia in Syracuse, NY. Its also a real beauty.

And a STUNNING Magnolia in Syracuse, NY. It's also a real beauty. (Photo is courtesy of Mariel Proulx and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Rest in peace, old Maggy. This was torn down in 1986. Sigh.

Rest in peace, old Maggy. This was torn down in 1986. Sigh. Photo is courtesy Nebraska State Historical Society and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read about the Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska, click here.

To see the inside of a Magnolia, click here.

To buy Rose’s book, click here.

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“Americanized English” - The Sears Wilmore

January 16th, 2014 Sears Homes 1 comment

“We have worked out an attractive exterior along the lines commonly known as ‘Americanized English.’”

So reads the text that accompanies the description of the pretty little Neo-Tudor, known as a “Wilmore.”

And better yet, “The kitchen is sure to make friends among housewives…”

That’s a dark day in womanhood when a woman’s best friend is a kitchen.

Thanks to Dale Wolicki and Rebecca Hunter for sharing their photos of Wilmores found in the Midwest!

To read my favorite blog about Sears biggest house, click here.

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The Wilmore

One of the optional extras for The Wilmore was a permanent staircase to the expandable attic (1938).

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Not a very big house, but a smart floor plan!

Not a very big house, but a smart floor plan!

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It is a real cutie-pie of a house.

It is a real cutie-pie of a house. Note the bellcast roof on the right rear.

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Heres a pretty little Wilmore that Dale found in West Peoria, IL.

Here's a pretty little Wilmore that Dale found in West Peoria, IL. Someone painted over the nine-lite window on the front door. Ugh! And then someone put up sea-shell shutters! (I wonder if Suzie sold them the sea-shell shutters?) Photo is copyright 2014 Dale Wolicki and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Rebecca Hunter found this Wilmore in Mendota, IL.

Rebecca Hunter found this Wilmore in Mendota, IL. I love the vintage lawnchairs. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permisison.

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Heres a Wilmore I found in the Staunton area,

Here's a Wilmore I found in the Staunton (Virginia) area, just across from the North River School. If someone can give me a better address than that, I'd be very grateful.

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And this is perhaps the most interesting Wilmore. Its a customized Wimore in Kirkwood, Missouri, and I visited the house in 2003, and authenticated it as The Real Deal. The house was turned sideways on the lot, and the front gable was extended to create a more spacious living room.

And this is perhaps the most interesting Wilmore. It's a customized Wilmore in Kirkwood, Missouri, and I visited the house in 2003, and authenticated it as The Real Deal. The floorplan is *flipped* (as compared to the catalog image) and turned 90 degrees on the lot. The front gable was extended to create a more spacious dining room. The front door was moved to the side of the gable, and a small window is on the smaller gable in place of a door. This angle really highlights that bellcast roof on the gable (left side of picture).

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To contact Rose, please leave a comment below.

To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

Dale’s website is here.

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Wanted: More Better Pictures of the Lincoln Magnolia!

July 6th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

Updated! I got my “more better pictures”!  Click here to learn more!

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Thanks to Rebecca Hunter, I now have a picture (albeit a little faded) of the Sears Magnolia in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately, the house burned in 1985 or 1986, and shortly afterwards, it was razed.

The Magnolia in Lincoln was one of eight known Magnolias in the country, and (as far as we know), the only one that has been demolished.  (An eighth Magnolia in West Virginia was recently discovered.)

Last night as I was thinking about this old house in Nebraska, I realized that someone somewhere is bound to have a better photo of the Magnolia, and perhaps a photo of the house in its prime. This house was in the state’s capitol (Lincoln), and it must have been fairly well known in the community, and hopefully, well photographed!

The house was owned by a family named “Benza,” and it was probably built between 1918 and 1922. It was located at 5901 NW 20th Street in Lincoln.

If you have any information on this house, or any photos, please leave a comment below!

To learn more about the Magnolia, click here.

To read about the building of a Magnolia, click here.

To visit Rebecca’s website, click here.

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Sears Magnolia Lincoln

This is the only known photo of the Sears Magnolia in Lincoln. The house was torn down in 1985 or 1986, and in this photo, the house appears to be in very rough shape. I have no idea what year this photo was taken. There's a car in front of the house, but I can't see much of it. Somewhere, there's a better photo of this house. I'd love to see it.

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Sears Magnolai

The Sears Magnolia in Alabama (Piedmont) is also in need of a little love.

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Magnolia 1918

The Magnolia was first offered in the 1918 Modern Homes catalog.

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Magnolia 1918

In 1918, it was offered for $4485, and if you wanted to just buy the plans, those were a scant $10.

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Magnolia 1920

Due to post-war hyperinflation, the price of the Magnolia hit $7,998 in 1920.

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Magnolia 1921

By 1921, the price had dropped to about $6,500.

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prices

After World War One, the cost of building materials and lumber went sky high. Sears catalogs had a six-week lead time (from creation to publishing). Due to the volatility of building material costs, Sears couldn't keep up on the price info. As an alternative, they just stuck price sheets into the pages of the Sears Modern Homes catalog. See the highlighted entry above? This shows the profound reduction in cost, in the Spring 1921 Sears catalog. In fact, the catalog page (shown above) has a price of $6,488 but this insert shows the price as $10 cheaper.

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Magnolia 1922 (last year)

The Magnolia made its final appearance in the 1922 catalog. The price was now $5,849, or about $1,000 more than when first offered in 1918. Did anyone buy their Magnolia when it cost $10,000?

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Magnolia in South Bend

One of the eight known Magnolias is in South Bend, IN. (Photo is copyright 2012 James Layne and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.)

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Magnolia in Canton, OH

The Magnolia in Canton, OH was almost lost (roof had collapsed into the 2nd floor), but it was painstakingly restored to its original splendor. Photo is copyright 2012 Janet Hess LaMonica and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. So there.

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Do you know the location of another Magnolia?  Please leave a comment below!

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The Van Dorn: A Fine Example of Modern Dutch Colonial Architecture

February 13th, 2013 Sears Homes No comments

Thanks to friends Ersela Jordan and Rebecca Hunter, I have some photos of the Sears Van Dorn.

These Dutch Colonial kit homes can be hard to identify, because they’re so ubiquitous, rather simple, and sometimes, they all look alike!

Ersela managed to get inside the Van Dorn in Beckley, West Virginia and take some wonderful photos. That house is in beautifully original condition. Hopefully, the owners know what a treasure they have there. Too often, people get into such a rush to “modernize” their old house that they forget to save what’s really important.

To see a plethora of pretty, pretty pictures, scroll on down!

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The Van Dorn, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

The Van Dorn, as seen in the 1928 catalog.

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In the 1930 catalog, a testimonial extolled its virtues.

In the 1930 catalog, a testimonial extolled its virtues.

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Close-up of the text.

I wonder if Mr. and Mrs. Meiners still love their Van Dorn?

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Nice-looking house!

Nice-looking house, but not very distinctive as these things go!

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Heres a Van Dorn in Barrington. I wonder if theres a Barrington in Van Dorn?

Here's a Van Dorn in Barrington. I wonder if there's a Barrington in Van Dorn? Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission. Please check out the link below to learn more about Rebecca's new book. It's a treasure!

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A Van Dorn that Ersela Jordan found and photographed in Beckley, WV.

A Van Dorn that Ersela Jordan found and photographed in Beckley, WV. Like the Van Dorn shown above, this one also has its original front door. Photo is copyright 2008 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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It is a cute house, isnt it?

The Van Dorn was one of a handful of Sears kit homes that had functional shutters (1928).

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Good floorplan, too.

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Ersela got inside the Van Dorn and took some wonderful photos.

I think I would have gone for the Rhythmics. After all, they're extremely modern and not faddish, plus, isn't that what sweet dreams are made of? ;)

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Ersela got inside the Van Dorn and took some wonderful photos, such as this close-up of the La Tosca hardware. Photo is copyright 2008 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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But the best is this photo of an original Sears chandelier. Be still my heart! What a beauty!

This is a very busy chandelier, but I love it! Check out the medallion on the front (1930).

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How cool is that!? An original Sears chandelier. Be still my heart! What a beauty! Photo is copyright 2008 Ersela Jordan and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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To read more about the kit homes in West Virginia, click here.

To learn more about Rebecca Hunter’s wonderful new book, click here.

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The CLH, by Sears!

February 11th, 2013 Sears Homes 1 comment

When Dale, Rebecca and I were gallivanting about the Midwest, seeking and finding kit homes, we developed a few “abbreviations” and one of them was, “The CLH.”

“No, don’t bother pulling out the books for this one,” one of us might say. “It’s just a CLH.”

The other two would sigh  and then we’d move on to the next house.

CLH could stand for many things:  “Cute Little House,” or “Compact Little House” or “Common Little House” or sometimes…

“Crummy Little House.”

In other words, the house was so modest, so plain and so tiny (and typically so remuddled) that there was no way to identify it. Further complicating the issue was that all the major companies (Sears, Lewis Manufacturing, Wardway, Gordon Van Tine, Aladdin, Sterling and Harris Brothers), all offered several versions of the CLH.

These houses were so tiny (under 600 square feet) that they were often the victims of significant remodeling and additions, making identification more problematical.

Because of this, I don’t have any photos of CLHs. But we do have testimonials, which might help us find a few CLHs.

One such example of a CLH is the Wayside, and this a fun one because the 1919 Sears Modern Homes catalog showed INTERIOR photos of the house! Those interior photos bear little resemblance to the true facts, but hey, why let facts get in the way of a good story?  :)

If you know where this house is, and/or are willing to get me a photo, I’d be very grateful!

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The Wayside, as seen in the 1919 catalog. Notice, it has no bathroom.

The Wayside, as seen in the 1919 catalog. It has only 520 square feet.

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Floorplan

Notice it does not have a bathroom! And the bedrooms are teeny!

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Which means youll

Which means you'll need to spend an extra $41 for a two-seater.

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But the price was right!

But the price was right!

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Yikes, it was so cheap you didnt even get wooden railings, but chains!

Holy Toledo, it was so cheap you didn't even get wooden railings, but chains!

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Yup, chains!

Yup, chains!

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The interior shots were not quite honest.

The interior shots were not quite honest.

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I mean cmon, does this look like

I mean c'mon, does this look like a room that's 10 by 12? But I do love the Arts & Crafts decor, complete with little hearts carved into the coffee table. A&C furniture is notoriously bulky and massive, but these four pieces fit with ease into a 10x12 room!

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The kitchen - another fantasy.

The kitchen - another fantasy. It's 10-feet by 9-feet in reality. The object hanging over the sink (the thing that looks like a soap dispenser) is a light fixture. This was the ONLY light fixture in the kitchen, and it was also the only electricity in the kitchen. In the 1919, electrical outlets in the kitchen were considered unsafe and unnecessary (by male architects). At least the larder is full! That cook stove on the left would have been a behemoth, and would have taken up a lot of real estate, especially in a room that was nine-feet wide!

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Ah, the good news!

Ah, the good news! We know where they are! Do you have a wayside in your town?

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Have you seen this house?

Have you seen this house?

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To read the next really fun blog, click here.

To learn more about Sears Homes in the Midwest, click here.

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How Many Pieces Are There in a Condo Kit?

February 7th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

In 2002, I visited my friend Rebecca Hunter in Elgin, Illinois (southwest of Chicago) and she drove me out to Palantine to visit what she described as, “A very unusual Sears Westly.”

Of course, I was captivated and could hardly wait to see the thing.

She told me to close my eyes as we got close, so I did as she asked. When I felt the car come to a stop, she said, “Okay, you can open them.”

Sitting squarely in front of this old Westly, I remarked that it looked like a fine Westly. Yes, it had had some “improvements’ that weren’t historically sensitive, but it wasn’t too onerous.

Then Rebecca giggled a bit and moved the car forward a few feet, so I could get “the rest of the story.”

I gasped. I may have even hyperventilated just a wee bit.

Someone had built an entire neighborhood behind this once-beautiful Westly.

Why anyone would do this? Why would anyone WANT to do this? And how in the world did they get zoning approval?

And as an added note, for those who may be visiting this site for the first time, Sears did not sell “condo kits.”  :)

To learn more about Rebecca’s newest book (which I highly recommend), click here.

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house house

Sears Westly, as it appeared in the 1919 catalog.

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Palatine

And here's the Sears Westly in Palatine, IL. They built an entire neighborhood behind it!

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another view

Palate cleanse after that last picture.

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West Virginia Westly

Westly in West Virginia. In fact, it's in Oakhill.

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Suffolk

And here's a fine-looking Westly in Suffolk, VA.

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Porstmou

This Westly is in my hometown, Porstmouth, Virginia.

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Perfect Westly in Bellfonte, PA Rebecca

A perfect Westly in Bellfonte, Pennsylvania. Photo is copyright 2010 Rebecca Hunter and may not be used or reproduced without written permission.

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Westly Metropolis

A colorful Westly in Metropolis, Illinois (home of Superman).

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Nice

Red Bud, Illinois has several Sears Homes, including this one.

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ick

Ruh Roh. What happened here? Nothing good.

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ickagin

Eek. A Westly in Norfolk, Virginia. Eek (again).

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I see you every day but you never write!  :)  Please leave a comment below.

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The Stanhope, not in Iowa or New Jersey, but Norfolk!

January 19th, 2013 Sears Homes 2 comments

Stanhope is the name of a city in Iowa and New Jersey. And it’s also the name of a car that was sold from 1904-1906, by the Twyford Motor Car Company of Brookville, Pennsylvania.

But for this blog, we’re going to talk about the Stanhope that was sold by Aladdin of Bay City, Michigan.

The Stanhope was a fairly popular house. In 1920s America, it was an ideal home in both size and price.  And unlike so many of these diminutive bungalows, it had three bedrooms (most had two).

Yes, they were only 10 x 10, but for the family with four girls and three boys, it was probably a whole lot better than fold-out cots in the living and dining rooms (another popular option at the time).

Aladdin, like Sears, offered kit homes through their mail-order catalog. Sears sold about 70,000 kit homes during their 32 years in the building business. Aladdin sold more than 75,000 homes. The Sears Modern Homes department was in business from 1908-1940. Aladdin started selling houses in 1906, and didn’t close until 1981, a full 75 years!

Here in Norfolk, Virginia (where I live), we have many more Aladdins than Sears. Aladdin had a large mill in Wilmington, NC which explains why there are so many Aladdin kit homes in the Southeast.

Thanks to Dale Wolicki for providing info on Aladdin!

To learn more about Aladdin, click here.

To read more about Roanoake Rapids (which has a massive collection of Aladdin kit homes), click here.

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Aladdin (based in Bay City) sold kit homes through mail order.

Aladdin (based in Bay City, Michigan) sold kit homes through mail order. This is my favorite graphic from their catalog (1919).

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The Stanhope was one of Aladdins most popular little houses.

The Stanhope was one of Aladdin's most popular little houses.

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But it was a very small house.

It had three bedrooms, but it was a very small house.

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The full

The catalog page featuring the Stanhope, as it appeared in 1919.

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After reading this delicious description, kinda makes ME want to run out and buy a Stanhope of my own!

"Are you not pleased with the Stanhope?"

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One of the

Aladdin was famous for their "Dollar a Knot" guarantee.

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The Stanhope

The Stanhope can be tough to identify because it looks like every little early 20th Century bungalow and is rather nondescript.

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And yet, you can find them if theyre in original condition. Heres a perfect Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids).

And yet, they can be identified if they're in original condition. Here's a perfect Stanhope in Scotland Neck, NC (near Roanoke Rapids).

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Nice match, isnt it?

Nice match, isn't it?

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And heres one in Norfolk, Virginia. This house is very close to ODU, and is on 51st Street.

And here's one in Norfolk, Virginia. This house is very close to ODU, and is on 51st Street. It's a perfect example of the Aladdin Stanhope and one of my favorite finds!

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To learn more about how to identify kit homes, click here.

Have you visited Roanoke Rapids? It’s a town FULL of Aladdin kit homes. Click here to learn more.

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The Homey Homewood

July 17th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

Some models of Sears Homes were wildly popular. Some were not.

The Homewood falls into the second category.

And yet, it’s a puzzle as to why this attractive two-story bungalow was not a big seller for Sears.

With 784 square feet on each floor (about 1,600 square feet total), it was spacious with good-sized rooms and a thoughtful floorplan. And the price ($2,535 in 1928) was about average for the time period.

This house was only offered for a handful of years. Perhaps that’s why we don’t see more models of The Sears Homewood.

The Sears Homewood (1928 catalog)

The Sears Homewood (1928 catalog)

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Nice floorplan, and about 784 square feet per floor.

Nice floorplan, and about 784 square feet per floor.

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Second

All of the bedrooms have a nice-sized closet. What a bonus!

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The Homewood was a fine-looking bungalow!

The Homewood was a fine-looking bungalow!

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Heres one in Elmhurst, Illinois. Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for finding this house, and then driving me over there to Elmhurst so I could get a good photo!

Here's one in Elmhurst, Illinois. Thanks to Rebecca Hunter for finding this house, and then driving me over there to Elmhurst so I could get a good photo! This model did not have a fireplace. Not all that unusual in Sears Homes. Fireplaces were optional.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

To read about the other Sears Homes in Northern Illinois, click here.

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